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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 38: Year 4: Preparations
The early spring sun, warm on their skin for the first time that year, reflected in the display windows of the shop they were standing by and nearly blinded both Ginny and Hermione. Squinting, they took a few steps forwards, and Ginny reached out a groping hand, found the door handle and stepped inside, closely followed by her friend.
The shop was covered from floor to ceiling in the most stunning sort of fabrics – pieces of cloths that fluttered slightly, despite the fact that they were inside and no wind could reach them, half-finished little bags that glittered and sparkled like nothing Ginny had seen before, and dresses with long, flowing skirts and the most complex, beautiful embroidery patterns. Not even Ginny could help but gasp in amazement as her gaze wandered between the different hangers, her eyes widening more each time they found a new piece of the impressive handiwork.
“Ah, Miss Weasley,” said a soft voice, making both Ginny and Hermione spin around. “I was hoping I’d see you in here soon.”
The man who had just spoken seemed to blend in with the wall behind him, which was probably the reason why neither one of the girls had noticed him when they had first stepped into the shop. He was dressed in a white and silvery robe, which hung loosely over his shoulders and swept over the floor behind him, as it was several feet too long for his short, slender figure. The man was quite old, probably in his sixties or seventies, and every inch of his face wrinkled as he smiled at Ginny. His long, thick hair, which was the exact same colour as the silver in his robe, fell over his eyes as he lowered his head in what looked like a bow of respect. Then, he raised a wrinkled hand, which only had four fingers, to brush the lock away from his face, and waited for Ginny to speak.
It wasn’t until Hermione shoved her in the side that Ginny finally opened her mouth and said:
“Right. Of course. I mean… you expected me?”
“Not exactly,” responded the silver-haired man with a faint smile on his thin lips. “But I think that every tailor in this country – maybe in all of Europe – has been waiting for you ever since the announcement of your engagement.”
Suddenly, he turned around and walked past the two young women to the opposite wall, where he began browsing through the hangers, which made loud, squeaking sounds as he pushed them aside, all while mumbling something that sounded a lot like: “Now, where are you, you little…?”
Ginny looked helplessly at Hermione, who shrugged; perhaps this certain tailor was a bit crazy?
“Well,” said Ginny loudly. “The thing is, I’m looking for a–“
She was interrupted by a triumphant: “HA!” and took an instinctive step back as the tailor spun around, clutching something in his arms, that he then held up in front of her; it was most likely the simplest piece in the entire shop, with long sleeves and a round neck, and yet it was so incredibly breath-taking…
“–a wedding dress,” Ginny finished her sentence, a smile spreading across her face. “How did you…?”
“Like I said,” the tailor replied, “I was hoping you would come. So I made you this, in case my hopes would be heard.”
“It’s perfect,” Ginny whispered, reaching out her hands to touch it. “May I try it on?”
The tailor smiled and handed her the dress, which was surprisingly light, and then he nodded towards a door in the back. “You can get changed in there. I hope you’ll like it. And if there’s anything you want to change, let me know and I will do it.”
But as Ginny stepped out of the changing room a few minutes later, she already knew that no changes would be required. The dress fit her perfectly – even her broad, athletic shoulders fit into it (without looking too broad and manly, like they usually did) – and she was certain that it was the most beautiful piece of clothing she had and ever would own. Normally, she wasn’t very comfortable wearing a dress, but this was different, far from the curlicue and puffy skirts that her mother had tried to get her to wear when she was little. The cut was straight and simple, and unlike many of the other dresses in the shop, there were no embroidered flowers or lace, no glitter or pearls. Those decorations weren’t necessary, because the dress alone, and the gorgeous, soft fabric was pretty enough.
“Ginny…” said Hermione, her voice full of astonishment. “You look so beautiful.”
Ginny glanced over her shoulder and into the mirror that was hanging on the door to the changing room. It was actually true. She did look beautiful, and more importantly, she felt more beautiful than she had ever done before. Surprised at how much this moved her, she turned to the tailor, who was standing by Hermione with a proud look on his face.
“Thank you so much,” she said. “This is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. Thank you.”
“You’re the one who’s beautiful, Miss,” the man said. “This dress only brings it out even more.”
“No, it’s the dress,” Ginny insisted, and the tailor laughed.
“Isn’t it refreshing?” he asked, his question seemingly directed to himself. “A pretty girl who doesn’t even know it…” Turning to Hermione, he smiled crookedly and added: “Most women who come in here act as if they’re the embodiment of beauty, but this one… Refreshing,” he repeated, and Hermione smiled and nodded.
Ginny let her hands run down her sides, feeling the smooth material under her fingertips. “I don’t ever want to take it off…”
“So that’s the one, then?” the tailor asked. “That’s your wedding dress?”
Ginny nodded vigorously. “This is the one. I’ll take it.”
Despite Ginny’s deciding to go with the first dress she tried on, the two girls remained in the tailor’s shop in Diagon Alley for another two hours, which consisted of several cups of tea, the tailor demonstrating (about eight times) how he had weaved the amazing fabric of Ginny’s dress with a simple flick of his wand, and him trying to get Hermione to try on a few of the wedding dresses as well. She refused though, and after emptying her teacup and promising, with a rather bitter tone in her voice, that she would come back if Ron would ever actually ask her to marry him, the girls finally left. As soon as they got out on the street, they went their separate ways; Ginny Disapparated, and Hermione headed for the Leaky Cauldron and Muggle London, carrying the large box with the dress in her arms, since Ginny was meeting up with Harry and couldn’t take it herself.
It was only minutes later that Hermione walked into Royal Free Hospital, feeling a knot form in her stomach as she passed through the doors. She absolutely detested coming there; it seemed like every little thing about it made her skin crawl. She hated the chemically clean smell of it, the way she couldn’t seem to make it up to her mother’s room without seeing sick people or people crying over sick people, and she hated the way that every nurse and doctor smiled and nodded at her with that sympathetic expression on their faces. On this day, a sobbing woman scurried past her already in the arrival hall, and Hermione forced herself to look away, pressing her fingernails into her own palms to try to keep herself from thinking of how long it might be before she would be one of those relatives who would cry in the corridors and upset the other visitors.
When she finally reached her mother’s room, Hermione paused for a second in the doorway. She could see her father sitting by the bed inside, his hands clasping his wife’s but his eyes on the book that lay open in his lap. Taking a deep breath, Hermione stepped over the threshold and caught his attention, and he lifted his head and smiled at her.
“Hermione! I didn’t think you’d be here so soon.”
“I should have come sooner, actually,” Hermione said as she walked over to him, thinking only about the fact that she had not yet looked at her mum. “Since Ginny bought the first and only dress she tried on.”
“Mum’s been asleep anyway,” said her dad, nodding towards the bed, and Hermione bit her lip before finally turning her head towards it.
The knot in her stomach grew as she took in her mother’s appearance. Mrs Granger was lying on her back, her head tilted to the side, and a tube was sticking out of her throat. Each time she took a breath, it moved slightly. Her cheekbones were sharp and her skin had an almost grey colour. Hermione wasn’t sure if she was imagining it, but she thought that her mother looked so much sicker for each time that she saw her. Whether it was true or not, it wasn’t completely delusional – despite the aggressive treatment, the cancer inside Mrs Granger’s body had grown since the doctors had first discovered it.
As she sat down in a chair next to her father, Hermione then turned her eyes to her mother’s head. It was covered in the same bushy hair that 11-year-old Hermione had yelled at her for passing on to her. With this latest treatment, it was all going to fall off. It was ironic, thought Hermione bitterly, how she had once wished that her mother hadn’t had hair like that; was this the twisted way of the universe to grant her that wish?
“How did the treatment go?” she said, turning towards her father, who had closed his book and placed it on Mrs Granger’s nightstand.
“There’s no telling yet,” Mr Granger answered. He reached out his hand and grabbed hers. “She’ll have to rest after this, and then she’ll come back and they’ll inject more of the drugs. She’ll probably be really tired during the course of the treatment…”
“… but it could slow things down for her.” Hermione’s voice was dry.
There was something heartbreakingly soft in the way her father looked at her and nodded. Then, squeezing her hand, he said:
“She won’t be able to go to the wedding. I promised her I’d take lots of photographs of you in your bridesmaids dress, though.”
Hermione forced herself to smile. “You always take lots of photographs, so there’s no surprise there.”
A subdued mumbling made both father and daughter turn their heads back towards the bed. Mrs Granger’s eyes fluttered open, and Hermione, thinking that it would be nice for her mum to wake up to a smile, kept the corners of her mouth stretched upwards as their eyes met.
“Honey,” Mrs Granger whispered. “It’s so good to see you.”
“How are you doing, Mum?”
Mrs Granger smiled. “I don’t know. I don’t want to feel it just yet.”
Hermione bit her lip hard, but found it impossible to hold back her tears. “You don’t have to be strong for me, Mum. I can take it. I want to be there for you…”
“Okay,” Mrs Granger said. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, clenched her fists and then looked up again. “I’m okay. I feel a little weak, but I’m okay.” She reached for Hermione’s hand, brought it up to her face and kissed it. “I’m so proud of you, sweetheart. I hope you know that.”
Her eyelids seemed to grow heavy, and soon enough, her eyes were closed again. It seemed like she had fallen right back to sleep. Hermione smiled and leaned in towards her father, who placed an arm around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head.
“You should get to work before it gets too late, shouldn’t you?” he said, and she nodded reluctantly.
“When she wakes up again, will you please tell her I’m proud of her too?” she asked, and her father nodded.
“Of course I will.”
Hermione stood up, grabbed the box with the dress, which she had put by the foot of the bed, and walked over to the door. Before heading out, she turned back around and smiled one last time at her father.
“I love you, Dad.”
“I love you too,” Mr Granger replied, placing his hands over his wife’s thin one. “We both do.”
For once, Hermione, who was heading off to the Ministry to get some work done despite it being a Sunday, wasn’t alone in being productive. Ginny and Harry, taking advantage of the fact that they finally had some time on their hands, had met up with an estate agent and had just formed a small circle along with the burly, brown-haired wizard around the broken picture frame that he had just put on his desk. Raising a rowdy brow, he smiled and placed his index finger on it, carefully avoiding the broken glass.
“Go ahead,” he said then, making both Harry and Ginny follow his example. “Just a few more seconds now, and then we’re off…”
It was Harry who had insisted they should try to squeeze some house shopping into their schedules before the wedding, but he was quite sure that Ginny was more excited than him about it. They had briefly considered living at Grimmauld Place, but they both agreed that the Black family and later on the Order of the Phoenix had left too many permanent marks on it for them to ever feel like they could make it their own. Harry had been there a few times since the war, and it looked the same as it always had; Kreacher had greeted him at the door every time, and though the house-elf always offered to cook him anything he wanted or come with him to the flat and clean it, Harry thought it was best to let him stay at Grimmauld Place. He had told Hermione that he was keeping it for Kreacher’s sake when she suggested he could try and sell it, but his few visits over the last four years hadn’t been for the elf. Instead, he had gone to sit up in Sirius’ room, where he had gone through his godfather’s old things yet again. He had never found anything of much interest, but when missing Sirius he had somehow found comfort in reading the old Quidditch articles that his father's best friend had cut out from the paper, or in just sitting on his bed and imagining the teenage version of Sirius sulking in there while writing complainant letters to James about his family.
But no, neither Harry nor Ginny wanted to live in that house; their marriage, they had decided, should be something new and fresh, and they would need a new and fresh place to start with.
They spent the afternoon looking at some incredible properties; the estate agent, Mr Brooks, had taken one look at their budget before starting to drag them around ample gardens, four-storey houses with sea views, and swanky foyers. But as amazing as they were, Harry couldn’t see himself living in any of the houses, and Ginny’s excitement seemed to drop a little every time they arrived in a new place. Finally, standing outside an enormous, white manor with raked gravel paths leading up to the front door, Mr Brooks took one look at their faces and sighed.
“Let’s not bother with this one, then,” he said tiredly. Scratching his chin, he seemed to contemplate for a few seconds before he continued: “We’ll try something completely different. If you just grab my arm, we’ll Apparate there…”
The next time Harry looked up, he found himself standing by a winding, narrow road, which was surrounded by yellow and green fields and trees. Seeing as both Ginny and Mr Brooks were staring at something behind him, Harry turned around. On the other side of the road, there was a garden, untamed and overgrown, grass and branches so long that they had to lean against the stone walls of the house. There was a trodden path in the grass leading up to the front door, which was covered in flaky paint. Two large ceramic pots were standing on each side of the door, and the plants in them looked like they had been wilted for a long time. The windows were dusty and the front porch dirty, and it was certainly different from the other posh houses they had seen, but Harry couldn’t imagine anyone being able to picture living here…
That was, until he turned towards Ginny. Whatever enthusiasm she had dropped as the afternoon had progressed, she had definitely found it again; it was pouring out of her skin, glowing. There was a light in her eyes as they wandered between the ivy that grew on the walls, the unkempt garden and the dead plants, and Harry understood nothing of it.
“Obviously, this one you’ll need to fix up a bit before you can move in,” said Mr Brooks, and Ginny nodded as a smile spread across her face.
“I think it’s perfect!” she squeaked in a very uncharacteristic way. Then, she took a step forwards, grabbed Harry’s hand and pulled him into the garden. “Imagine a really nice flowerbed in front of the house, right here… We’ll have roses, like the ones Hermione’s parents have… And over there, if we weed out those bushes, there will be a little grove where we can put a hammock to sit in in the summers!”
They walked around the corner of the house, and Harry was surprised to see how big the garden actually was. A fence separated it from the woods that stretched out behind it, but a water stream flowed under its bars and debouched in a small pond in the middle of the lawn. On that day, in the spring sun and in the middle of a rampant lawn that was in desperate need of trimming, it looked absolutely beautiful.
“Oh, if the water’s not too muddy, we can dip our feet in there when it’s hot outside!” said Ginny happily. “And there’s enough space to set up goal posts and play Quidditch over here. We could keep our broomsticks in that little shed...”
After walking through the garden, Mr Brooks led the couple into the house. Once again, Harry was pleasantly surprised: the hallway was wide and light, and the stone walls made a lovely contrast to the dark wooden floor. The kitchen was on the right; it was robust and rustic, with a countertop made of stone, and whitewashed cabinets. Harry imagined cooking dinner there, and placing a table over by the window, so that they could eat it while looking out at the fields on the other side of the little road.
On the opposite side of the hallway was the sitting room; a fireplace made out the centre of it, and though the walls were much too dark for Harry’s liking, a glass door leading out to a small porch overlooking the pond made him smile widely. They could easily repaint the walls, after all, and he would really like having breakfast out on that porch on those summer days that the temperature would allow it.
The bedrooms were on the second floor. There were more of them than they had asked for, but it didn’t matter. The master bedroom was through the first door – it was a lot larger than their bedroom in the flat, the countryside view was absolutely stunning, and the wooden ceiling beams reminded him of the Burrow, which gave the room a homely, familiar air.
The rest of the bedrooms were smaller, but in better condition than Harry had expected. As he walked out of one of them, he realized that Ginny had stopped in the doorway to the last one, and was now leaning against the doorframe while staring into it. The floor creaked under his feet as Harry walked over to her, wrapped his arms around her waist and peeked in over her shoulder.
It was a nursery – the walls were bright blue with a welt of white little sheep jumping around the room. By the window, where Harry assumed that the cot had once stood, a mobile was still hanging from the ceiling, with tiny silver stars, teddy bears and blue cars swinging slightly in a gust.
Both Ginny and Harry stood in silence and watched it for a moment. Then, Ginny turned around to face him, placed her hands on his chest and said:
“Can’t you see it? Can’t you see our children grow up in this house?”
Harry let his gaze sweep past her, to the mobile and its subtle movements, and then onwards to the window. Through it, he could see the sunbeams reflect in the pond, and when he looked at Ginny again, it was with an expression on his face that she had only seen once before – in the moment right after she had accepted his marriage proposal. Now, Harry bent his head down and kissed her softly.
“Yes,” he answered when they broke apart a few seconds later. “Yes, I can see it.”
Nearly two weeks after seeing his future home for the first time, Harry returned to it with the keys in his pocket. This time, he wasn’t in company of the person he’d live there with, though, but with her brother, and he watched in amusement as Ron’s widened eyes wandered between the house, the garden, and the dead flowers.
“You bought this?” he spat, his eyebrows wrinkled in concern, as if he was worried that his sister and future brother-in-law had both suddenly lost their minds. “Harry, it’s…”
“I know,” Harry chuckled, patting his friend on the back. “It’s all about seeing the potential. Plus, it looks a lot better on the inside than you’d think.”
A little while later, after being dragged around the garden and all the rooms of the house, Ron’s attitude towards it was slightly less negative, especially since hearing about Ginny’s Quidditch pitch plans. Promising Harry that he would make him return the favour the day that he bought a house, Ron then brought the paint cans inside with unexpected enthusiasm (he had complained on the way about working over Easter, when they finally had time off from work, but he seemed to have forgotten about it now).
Harry watched as his friend pulled out his wand, waved it at the cans and made paint fly out of them and spread perfectly on the walls of the sitting room. It was finished within seconds, and Harry shook his head in amazement.
“This is what I love about magic,” he said. “We’ll be finished in no time, won’t we?”
Ron checked the watch on his wrist before replying: “By the time Ginny gets back from training, you can probably start moving in.”
“Oh, but we’re not moving in yet,” said Harry while making a pair of sponges jump out of their bag and start scrubbing the windows. “Not until after the wedding. We thought we’d move all our stuff right before that, and then we’ll come straight here after the honeymoon.”
“Right. That’s about it for this room, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. Let’s head upstairs.”
“So what are we doing with the bedrooms?” asked Ron as they climbed up the stairs a short moment later. “I mean, are you… Do you want to keep the nursery the way it is, or…?”
Harry laughed. “Are you asking if we’re planning on having kids any time soon?”
Ron shrugged. “Maybe I am,” he said. “And I might also be wondering if you’d like me to paint over that sheep border or not.”
“Well, I don’t think we’ll be needing a nursery for a while,” Harry said in a more serious tone than before. “I mean, Ginny’s got her Quidditch career… She wouldn’t be able to fly if she was pregnant, would she? And one of us would need to stay at home with the baby after it’s born too… So I suppose we’ll wait until she feels like she’s ready.”
“But if it was just up to you, you wouldn’t wait?” Ron asked, his eyebrows raised as high as they could go.
“Maybe we’d wait a little while,” Harry said and shrugged. “I want Ginny to play too. I don’t want her to give it up, not when she's got all that talent… But I am excited for the day that she’ll be willing to.”
Ron let out a nervous laugh. “I can’t say I understand you there, mate. I mean, by Merlin’s beard, Harry, you’re not even twenty two years old! I don’t think I’ll even consider that for at least another ten years…”
“Don’t let Hermione hear you say that,” Harry warned him, and Ron grinned.
“Trust me, I know. But it’s not that I don’t like the idea of marrying her. It’s more just the idea of marrying anyone.”
“It’s not the same for me, though,” Harry said. “I’ve never had a family of my own. I know, I know,” he added quickly when he saw the look on Ron’s face, “I’ve got your family now, but… I’ve always wanted this. When I was younger, I longed for my parents, but I’ll never have them. But I will have Ginny, and one day I’ll have our children too. I’m sure it won’t take you ten years to feel the same way, mate.”
Ron shrugged; he didn’t seem to know how to respond. Which was fine, Harry thought, because he didn’t need to say anything about it. He knew that Ron wished as much as he did that he could have had his parents, at least when he was younger.
“In just a few weeks,” said Harry, as if he had just realized, “I’ll have a wife.”
“I know,” Ron said and grinned again. “I’m so glad you’re marrying her, Harry. Even though I think you’re absolutely mad for doing it so soon.”
“It’s perfect, you know,” Harry said. “Obviously that’s not why I’m marrying her, but it’s perfect that I fell in love with your sister. I mean, I won’t just have a wife in a few weeks… When Ginny and I are married, you’ll be my brother. For real.”
He smiled as he watched Ron, who kept his eyes fixed on his own shoes as his ears went red. Just as Harry wondered if he should change the subject to spare his friend the emotional moment, Ron lifted his head, took a step forward and hugged him.
“That would be true,” he said, “but we’re already brothers.”
A/N: Thank you so much for reading! You are amazing and as always, there's nothing I can say to really express how grateful I am to all of you. And so many of you have wished me luck for this adventure that I'm heading off to very soon, so thank you for that too! It's so lovely how you're not just supporting this story, but me as a person too.
As for the next chapter, I have not given up completely on the hopes of finishing it before the 20th, but I really can't promise you anything. I have written parts of it, but I really want it to be perfect too! Either way, I have realized that I will be able to post it before I leave, because the Christmas break ends before I leave. So whether or not I can finish it in the next couple of days, you WILL get a wedding before I go. I hope you're ready for it. Harry certainly is!